Friday, March 26, 2010

First Paddle of 2010

Looking back last year, my first paddle in 2009 was on March 7. Unexpectedly early due to a warm spell with rain that opened up the Credit River. Well this March was even warmer with better weather! You bet I was thinking about paddling. Unfortunately bad timing lead to missing the first opportunity to paddle the Credit on the same calender day (Mar 7) when it broke free of ice. Since then I still haven't been able to get out on the river, but,....I did go for a paddle.

The following weekend, I went to spend some time with my girlfriend in Huntsville. Leaving Toronto meant losing another opportunity to paddle the Credit, but the trade off was,....uh,..yeah!, well worth it! (shhh!, she might read this post) Driving up, I hoped an opportunity to paddle would show up somehow, but seeing all the frozen lakes was disheartening. Well as I pulled into the driveway in the fading light, I could definitively make out the shimmering glow of open water from the lake in the distance. There was hope.

Lake Vernon in Huntsville was surprisingly open. Which meant
we couldn't pass up the opportunity to paddle!

In the morning, one of the first things I did was look out onto the lake. Despite most of it being encased in ice, I was thrilled to find a large open section in the middle. Thoughts of paddling danced round my head. Of course the biggest problem was getting to the open water from the ice surrounding it. The next couple days I waited patiently as the combination of rain and hot temperatures continued to open up the lake until there was less than 10 ft of ice from shore to get to open water. Relaying my intentions to Lisa, we both agreed it was time to get out for the year's inaugural paddle.

We were all smiles as we were prepared to go for our
first paddle of the year!

So on Monday Mar 15, I happily portaged (How often does that happen? Tell Bill Mason that.) the canoe to the lake shore. Even more surprising, the bit of shoreline ice we thought we had to contend with had melted or shifted so we didn't have to deal with it at all. The gods were paving the way! Then exactly at 14:30, we slid the Nova Craft Prospector into the chilly but open waters of Lake Vernon. Maybe it was the combination of being with Lisa and the warm sunny day, but pushing off into the lake and paddling was totally gratifying. How else can you describe the exhilarating feeling of paddling when all those synapses fire away in your hands, arms, shoulder and back exciting the pleasure senses in your brains? You just can't! You just have to experience it yourself.

Yeah, the whole lake didn't thaw out as you can see.
This is Hunter's Bay on the east side of Hwy 11.

But look! Lisa found another route to paddle! I would call this
an 'inlake' river! These openings were caused
from snowmobiles tracks.

It was the perfect day for paddling as the weather was unseasonably warm. As much as it probably isn't a good thing, especially when Environment Canada says its been the warmest and driest winter, Lisa and I couldn't help enjoy the moment. I've never paddled so early in the season on a lake this far north! So I missed paddling the Credit this weekend, well I certainly didn't have any regrets now. Can you tell? Now to start thinking (or at least planning) about a trip soon! 2010, here I come!

I think its a safe bet to say we were very happy paddlers.
It simply couldn't have been a better day!

Happy soon-to-be paddling! (of course if you haven't already gone!)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Romaine River Presentation @ MEC

Just a quick note to everyone. Word got out (thanks Rob & Aleks) about our Romaine River presentation from the Wilderness Canoe Symposium and next you know, I got an invitation to present at MEC. Its already getting to be quite the year with presentations, - wow! So if you are free, bored, or like to hear about a canoe trip on an incredible river, come on out the evening of Tuesday March 30th at 7:30PM. I wrote about the Romaine River's fate in previous posts so have a look back if you like to know what is going on. It will be a joint presentation between myself and David Robinson, talking not only about the trip, but a unique set of circumstances that allowed two groups to meet, help each other and eventually become friends. The presentation will be about an hour long with some amazing photos and some great stories. And as a heads up, as most people I'm sure don't know, some sponsors have donated some gifts to hand out. Hope to see you there!

FYI: MEC for those of you who don't know stands for Mountain Equipment Co-Op. As its name states, its a members only co-op (anyone can join for $5) which specializes in nope, not just mountain gear but the whole gamut of self-propelled outdoor activity related gear and clothing - phew! The address is 400 King Street West, Toronto, ON. Their telephone no is 416 340 2667. Here' s a link to their website -

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Romaine River - Northern Lights

If you're lucky on a canoe trip in the far north, you may get to experience the grandest "night-time" show ever. Sure an illuminating full moon is captivating, or the generous sprinkle of celestial stars can have you in awe, but witness the surreal pulsating glow of aurora borealis and you will be irrevocably moved forever. It will freeze you in a hypnotic state of wonder and amazement.

Now all northern lights are not all equal. I've seen a couple in my short lifetime and as exciting as they were, they were brief, diminutive and hardly spectacular. Northern lights are much better observed and appreciated at northern latitudes so you not only have to be there at the right place but at the right time. North is a relative term since aurora borealis have been observed just north of Toronto, but if you are closer to the magnetic north you will most likey be guaranteed a significantly better performance.

Those northern lights were quite distracting while
trying to finish camp chores for the day!

We had arrived at camp late that evening off of the high from sailing Lac Brule. After eating supper in the dark, we emerged from our bug shelter to clean up when Rob noticed the luminescent glow in the far horizon. The show was just ramping up as we all stood transfixed starring at the heavens. We were all totally mesmerized. It was a show incomparable in beauty and grandeur. We had more than 180 degrees of unobstructed view infront of us with the lake and the far shore providing a backdrop. We had front row seats to the best show of the night!

We were all blown away - standing transfixed like mannequins
in a clothing store display. (well, except Dimitry!)

At one point someone mentioned "picture!" as it broke our trance and found three of us stumbly in the dark to quickly get our cameras. Shutters clicked left, right, and center as we all jostled for position and placement. It was quite exciting as we immediately saw the results of our shots thanks to the marvel of digital photography. We were beyond ourselves with the memories captured both in our minds and in the camera.

The massive columns of pulsating luminescent
light was just incredible!

As the night wore on and the novelty wore off, the boys slowly made their way into the tents. The temperature also dropped significantly but despite being chilled, I couldn't bring myself to head in. Aurora borealis had a hold on me so I continued gazing wide-eyed in my rapturous state. It was special being out there alone - just me and what the Cree call the "Dance of the Spirits". The spirits were certainly alive and well and it undeniably touched me. If you are so lucky, one day on a northern canoe trip you may be touched by the spirits as well.

The glowing background of aurora borealis against the spires
of black spruce was a most fitting tribute to this trip.